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Tapanui, What's On
Vintage Scene Magazine

   V.A.D cloth badge

Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.)

Bowser, T.,
The Story of British V.A.D. work
in the Great War, p.p. 1 - 23

Stout, T. Duncan M.,
Medical Services in New Zealand
and The Pacific, Historical Publications Branch,
1958, Wellington, p. 370
The Order of St John of Jerusalem, established in 1877 - 78, offered First Aid and Home Nursing in civilian circumstances. An outcome of the association was the St. John Ambulance Brigade. In time of war there was a civilian reserve to the Army Medical Department, when two thousand men, as members of the brigade, were supplied during the South African Boer War. The British Red Cross Society, established in 1905, joined with the order of St John in 1909, and the Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.), was formed as an organisation. Thousands of people received instruction in first aid and home nursing from the St John Ambulance Association. Women offered their time as volunteers, involved in community work, helping with sick and injured soldiers, recovering on return in 1901-02. There was a need for convalescent hospitals. Many of the volunteers did short courses and received a certificate, much to the dismay of qualified nurses completing three years studies. Therefore, when the First World War broke out in 1914, there were already a number of V.A.D. Auxiliary Nurses working in hospitals.

There were large numbers of lost lives in France and Belgium. The people in Britain rallied to assist in many ways and work together for the "war effort". When a shortage of nurses occurred, during the war, the joint war committee was left to sort out qualifications of nursing staff. Many of the women who became members of the V.A.D. were from upper and middle class and used their influences to obtain and organise transportation to the conflict in France, to nurse the sick and wounded soldiers. Their role became one of assistance, actively helping nurses and hospitals short of staff. V.A.D. Volunteers became ambulance drivers, maids in the wards and kitchens, cooks, office clerks and fundraisers. They assisted in blood banks, hospital ships and were recognised as auxiliaries to the Medical Service.

With the British War Office, and the British Red Cross Society, branches were established in countries such as New Zealand and Australia. When the war ended, the movement continued and during the Second World War the V.A.D.'s continued working in the military hospitals. From January 1940 the volunteers were paid and the roles expanded to seamstresses, storekeepers, radiographers, dental orderlies and laundry staff. In 1941 the Australian Government approved for V.A.D. workers to serve overseas.

After the First World War the V.A.D. service lapsed in New Zealand until a scheme was prepared and approved by the National Medical Committee for training in hospitals, planned by the Voluntary Aid Council. In May 1940, the Joint Councils of the New Zealand Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John, recommended issuing certificates to voluntary aids who successfully completed their hospital training.

Elizabeth Woodhead Stewart, from Crookston, joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment and worked in London during the First World War. She was the wife of Lieutenant-Colonel George Hepburn Stewart of the Kelso Mounted Rifles.